All Roads Lead to Beijing – Methods of Learning Chinese


So, you want to learn Chinese now. Congratulations! Knowing the language used by 1.4 billion people will definitely benefit you career and your business. Also, knowing the language and its associated history and culture will be full of fun. Then, the question is: How to learn Chinese? Don’t worry, all the roads lead to Beijing. For example, you can marry to a Chinese, hire a Chinese nanny, listen to primary chinese tuition radio or watch Chinese TV, work in a Chinese restaurant. Nevertheless, very few people succeed with these methods. Here we summarize some more main stream methods for your reference.

1. Take the Chinese language courses offered by schools or colleges. However, since there are not enough qualified Chinese language teachers, very few schools have Chinese course available. Even they do offer, it will be so popular that many students will be left out. Meanwhile, for the adult students taking the weekend or evening classes, it is always a challenge to beat the traffic from work to school, arrange the travel to avoid schedule conflict, and manage the family responsibilities. As a result, and plus other reasons such as the size of the class and lack of practice, most students barely go beyond Elementary Chinese 101. For a language, it means a waste of time and money if you stop at this point.

2. Buy a CD, a book, or software, or join an online class, and teach yourself. One of the more economical ways of learning. You can control the pace of yourself and don’t need to worry your awkward pronunciations. However, the challenge for the method is to keep yourself motivated after the initial honeymoon stage. Like diet plans, many people bought piles of different CD, software, or books, and try to get a fresh start every time. Without exception, the busy life push the learning again and again. They ended up as perpetual beginner. Also, without someone correcting the pronunciation, the awkward accents will just stay there.

3. Go to China and take an immerse class. It’s the most effective way of learning Chinese. Almost all fluent Chinese speakers mastered the language in China up to now. For example, Australia Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, started his Mandarin journey in Australia National University, majoring Chinese Language. However, he only mastered the language after he spent years living in Taipei and Beijing. If you have time and funding, the best way of learning Chinese is to go to China. You can take an immersion class, like the one offered by in collaboration with Communication University of China. By learning Chinese in class, living with Chinese neighbors, and interacting daily with regular Chinese. Then you will master the language in no time. By the way, another great advantage is that you might build a network there with local Chinese and fellow Chinese learners.

4. Hire a tutor and teach you face to face. Set up a schedule, and then you can meet with your tutor regularly and start to explore Chinese. It is more manageable than going to China and you can still learn authentic Chinese if can find and afford a good tutor. The tutor might also open the door of the local Chinese community for you. One drawback is that it is hard to find a native Chinese speaker who is willing and able to teach Chinese outside certain areas. Also, you or your tutor needs to beat traffic to meet at the class time. In metropolitans like New York City or Los Angels, it often means commuting on the road for hours. It is even worse in inclement weathers. Another drawback is that the available time slot might be limited. You don’t enjoy driving or taking bus at midnight, do you?

5. Online one-on-one tutor. A brand new method thanks the proliferation of Internet and multimedia. One of the pioneers is Like the previous method, it provide face to face tutoring or teaching, but through Internet using video conferencing software, such as Skype, MSN Messenger, etc. It provides several unbeatable advantages that make it the method of choice in the coming future. First, like personal tutor, it is one on one, so you will get personal attention from your teacher. Second, since the teaching is conducted over Internet, it can be held anytime and anywhere as long as there is broadband Internet access. No rush to subway or highway, and no worry about snow or storm. Third, the schedule can be very flexible to accommodate your work and family schedule. Late night or early morning is never a problem, and indeed preferred due to the time difference between China and US. Last but not least, it is affordable. Given the relatively low living cost in China, the tuition is often half or a quarter to the price asked by a tutor in America. Plus, by eliminating the commute, you can save some gas, which is getting more expensive every day, and help to protect our environment . By the way, Bill Gate used to take his Chinese class with this method. Of course, he only uses MSN Messenger. We will have more options than he does.


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